Chinese citizens have suffered from some of the world's worst air over these last three months, as pollution ratings have reached totals 30 times higher than the acceptable levels set by World Health Organization standards.
For years, Chinese citizens have been outspoken about the air quality in China — specifically Beijing — and have put more and more pressure on government officials to improve the plague of pollution. Yet, on January 12 of this year, pollution readings skyrocketed off the charts in Beijing, registering at 755 on the Air Quality Index (AQI). By comparison, the American Environmental Protection Agency’s EPA) rating maxes out at 500. According to the EPA, any reading over 100 is “unhealthy” and anything over 400 is considered “hazardous.”
Chinese residents have declared the situation an “airpocalypse,” as flights were grounded and roads closed down in order to try and put a stop to the increasingly poor air quality.
The New York Times reported that poor air quality contributed to 1.2 million deaths in China in 2010, which amounts to half of pollution-related deaths worldwide. Overall, the air quality has stripped the country of 25 million years of healthy life from its population.
The government is finally taking strong action in order to improve air quality. In February, the state council announced plans for new fuel standards, which was previously blocked by oil and power companies owned by the government.
In addition, many Beijing-based companies that rely on international talent are bracing for severe numbers of workers relocating after the end of the school year.
"We don't have good statistics yet but we are seeing many more patients telling us they are leaving because of air pollution," said Dr. Andy Wong, head of family medicine at Beijing United Family hospital, which is the biggest private healthcare provider for foreigners in China. "Recruitment is getting harder for all companies – how do you convince people to come work in the most polluted city in the world?"